Last night’s episode of Downtorn Abbey may have been wedding-free, but there were lots more stories about letters—writing them and receiving them, all the problems they cause, and all the crazy thing people will do to get them! Letters! Somebody write one to me, please, because otherwise I will feel as left out as poor Anna. All of the serving folk seem to be getting mail except for her.
Why hasn’t Mr. Bates—who surely never poisoned his wife’s pie—been writing to her from gaol lately? She’d ask him herself, but what’s this now? He can’t have social calls at jail anymore? This is odd, isn’t it?
What Little Often Anna doesn’t know, however is that ol’ Bates has run afoul of his for-real criminal cellmate and the guards, who for some reason do his bidding. They’ve been stealing Bates’ letters and hiding them to get back at him for hiding their stash.
Also happening: Cousin Matthew owns half of Downton now because he gave all of his dead ex-fiancé’s dead father’s money to Lord Robert so that they wouldn’t have to sell the place and move into a Fiscer-Price playhouse in the garden. Now he has to learn how to help run Downtown AbFab, which is just such a bother. Matthew has so much to do already, like reading the newspaper and powdering his chins while someone else chews his food for him. Also, isn’t he maybe a lawyer or something? (He had that office with the swivel chair in Season One.)
Anyway, Welcome Matthew does eventually find time to have a peek at the ledgers and makes the startling discovery that Lord Grantham, the patriarch of the Crawley clan who had to marry an American heiress because he was broke and then lost all of her money and pretty much loses fortunes on a weekly basis is rather effing bad at running Downton Abbey.
“I say everyone, nothing needs to change now that I’ve sunk all my money into this place,” Matthew tells the gang, “but I do think we should fire all the servants and change absolutely everything.”
Obviously, no one is trying to hear that, so they all just pat dear Mattrisha on his creamy plump hand. I guess we’ll revisit all that next week, because oh holly hell, this is what happens next:
The Archbishop of Yorkspermintpatty comes to dinner, and just as Grand Wizard Grantham is off talking some bigoted shit about Catholics, his own Irish-Catholic chauffer-turned-son-in-law shows up on their doorstep. In the rain. Branson’s on the run, see, because Maggie Smith made him burn down this castle in Ireland that she hated, and the police are after him. But where’s Lady Sybil, everyone wants to know, because Branson up and left his pregnant wife to get water-boarded by the bobbies.
“Oh, Sybil’s not with you, is she?” Cousin Mattress asks. “What a shame. Why don’t you pop up to my room and slip into some dry clothes. There’s a lovely silk dressing gown. I’ll be up in a jiffy to help you unwind.”
But Branson is too busy getting yelled at by Lord Grantham for any funny business. When Sybil finally does arrive, they have to figure out how to keep Branson from going to jail, because, sweet baby Jeebus, none of us can take another servant-in-prison storyline at this point.
Thankfully, his Lordship cuts a deal with the Secretary of Going to Jail, but now Branson can never ever go to Ireland again—and he and Lady Sybil have to live in Dunstin Checks In forever.
Meanwhile, Lady Mary casts her frosty glance down at Carson’s soggy feet. “Egad, Carson, has the basement flooded?”
“No, m’lady, that’s just from all the maids splooshing themselves over the new footman.”
Indeed, everyone downstairs seems to have a panty puddle thanks to cherub-faced Jimmy, a hairless golden piece straight out of a Bel Ami video. Thomas in particular takes a shine to the new lad. Could this be Thomas’ chance at true love? Or will Miss O’Brien use her foul-hearted trickery to destroy them both?
Now that Lady Edith is jilted she’s suddenly interested in women’s suffrage. (Wasn’t that Sybil’s cause last season?) She’s also apparently bored out of her skull, so she decides to write to the newspaper. (More letter writing!) “Dear newspaper book,” she penss. “I am think very unhappy because of spinsters can’t vote in the world. Bye! Layder Edeth.”
Everyone scoffs like they always do at poor dear sad old Edith—it’s like, will she ever get a break? But then it turns out she must have always secretly been a genius, because the newspaper prints her letter, which is the early-20th-century version of going viral on YouTube. So then she has to do the talk-show circuit and Lord High Grantham is furious, because it’s 1512 and women aren’t supposed to know how to read or write!
While all of this is going on up at the big house, Cousin Isabel and Mrs. Hughes are trying to help Ethel, Season Two’s slutty ginger maid, sell her baby. Last season, the snooty-patootie parents of the soldier who knocked her up wanted to buy the kid, but Ethel wouldn’t let them because she loved it with all her vain and foolish heart. Now, of course, she realizes—as have any of us who have spent time with kids—that they are horrible succubi that bleed you dry. But instead of putting the little fucker in a burlap sack and throwing it in Thames, Ethel convinces her baby-granddaddy and mommy to take the little bouncing bundle off her hands. Goodbye forever, kiddo! And , with the wee one out of the picture, it’s back on the street for Ethel.
Even further afield from Downtrodden Abbey, Bates manages to turn the tables on his scheisty cellmate and the corrupt coppers who’ve been holding his letters hostage. Then, with the comfort of knowing his words will reach his beloved Anna, he pens an exquisite series of erotic verses for her, which she reads by candlelight in her own bare cell at Castle Downton. We leave Anna with a flush of arousal rising in her ashen cheeks and the sound of her breath quickening and, everyone else at Downton Abbey with the curtain falling on their enthralling dramas for yet another week.